Infertility can affect anyone. It doesn’t discriminate based on religion, race, sexuality, or economic status. One in eight couples will have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy, according to a 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth from the CDC. Nevertheless, so often the struggle to build a family is a topic that’s left out of conversations.
National Infertility Awareness Week, April 18-24, was designed to change that. It’s a week designed to unite “millions of Americans who want to remove the stigmas and barriers that stand in the way of building families.” Its purpose is to encourage honest conversations about and normalize discussing fertility journeys and fertility planning.
In light of Infertility Awareness Week, Scary Mommy spoke with Dr. Sanaz Ghazal, MD and Co-Founder & Medical Director of RISE Fertility, a concierge fertility practice, to discuss how to determine the right fertility plan for you.
A Fertility Plan Is Like A Roadmap
“Anyone who’s interested in having a family would benefit from talking about and designing a fertility plan,” notes Dr. Ghazal.
For those individuals and couples who are seeking treatment for fertility, a fertility specialist can help design and personalize specific strategies to help patients achieve their dream family. To do this, fertility specialists will educate patients with evidenced-based information, including all the pros, cons, risks, and benefits of the options available.
Three Important Themes To Understand About Choosing A Fertility Plan
In choosing a fertility plan, Dr. Ghazal stresses these three points:
- Everyone’s fertility journey is different. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. For that reason, she urges anyone on a fertility journey to keep in mind their specific goals.
- Learn as much as you can about all the fertility options. The more you know about options, the more equipped you’ll be to make the right choice for you.
- Leave room to be flexible. It’s great to have a plan, but “sometimes there are twists and turns in the road that you can’t foresee, and you need to pivot, adapt, and that’s okay,” says Dr. Ghazal. In those times when you do need to adapt, it doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you need to move in a different direction to meet your goal.
Fertility Plans Are Not One Size Fits All
When thinking about the right fertility plan for you, it’s important to first understand your goals and the vision you have for your future. “Think deeply about your personal goals and dream family and build your plan around that,” she urges.
With her patients, Dr. Ghazal always starts with an honest conversation about the family her patient wishes to create. Among the topics discussed in that conversation are honest discussions about how many kids her patient hopes to have, whether sex of kids is important, and what timeline the individual or couple envisions.
With respect to timelines, Dr. Ghazal notes that even timelines are customizable. Patients can choose to go as quick or slow as they want. She emphasizes that patients are in the driver’s seat and shouldn’t feel pressure to “hurry up and get on with it.”
IVF Is One Of Many Fertility Treatments
When many think of fertility treatment, their thoughts skip to In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF. That’s with good reason. IVF has a relatively high success rate and it’s a pretty safe process, according to Dr. Ghazal. However, the reality is that fewer than three percent of infertility cases need strategies like IVF, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine
“It’s not always the case that everyone needs IVF,” says Dr. Ghazal, who notes that, “there are a lot of other strategies and techniques that we can use to help patients conceive.” For her patients, Dr. Ghazal considers a wide range of strategies and options, including from working to optimize the patient’s natural fertility with few medications to ovulation induction or Intrauterine insemination (IUI). She stresses that even within each fertility treatment strategy, there’s room for customization based on the patient.
The biggest drawback of IVF is the expense. Fertility treatments are often not fully covered by insurance, and some insurance plans don’t cover IVF at all. You should discuss your options with your insurance company. Some patients are able to use funds from their flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings plan (HSA). Asking for help from family, crowdsourcing, applying to “fertility grants/scholarships,” or taking out loans are other options.
Choosing A Fertility Plan Is Just The First Step
Once you’ve made a decision about how to pursue treatment, you and your doctor should map out the next steps. That means understanding what the protocol is for your treatment, what medications are required, and what the next steps for monitoring will be.
The hope is always a positive outcome, of course. In the event that’s not the case, there are “things you can glean,” according to Dr. Ghazal. In the event of a negative outcome, she stresses the importance of talking through what worked and didn’t work during that cycle and reflecting on what can be improved and the different strategies to consider going forward.
Infertility is challenging. For most individuals and couples, it’s a stressful time. Many feel helpless in their own journey. As a result, it’s imperative that patients find a fertility specialist who will make them feel empowered in their journey, who will help them feel seen and heard in order to make the best decision possible.